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'Australia Is Supporting the Oppression of Tamils in Sri Lanka'

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Writing in Jacobin this week, Eelam Tamil filmmaker and member of the Tamil Refugee Council, Baranthan Vidhyapathy, said the Australian government has whitewashed the atrocities committed by Sri Lanka against Tamils and "helped equip Sri Lanka’s state security forces."

Earlier this year, the Australian government supplied Sri Lankan police with five aerial drones despite supporting a United Nations resolution just months before, which warned of the deteriorating human rights situation on the island. 

"The drones were previously owned by the Operation Sovereign Borders Joint Agency Task Force, part of Australia’s military-led border security operation whose primary responsibility is to 'deter and disrupt' asylum seekers trying to reach Australia," Vidhyapathy wrote. 

"Australia claims that the drones will be used to support “crime-fighting” activities. But past experience makes it perfectly clear that the Sri Lankan authorities are likely to use the drones for surveillance of Tamil refugees fleeing the island — and government officials in Canberra know it," he added. 

Vidhyapathy highlighted that the Australian government previously "provided similar aid that was intended to stop people fleeing."

"On May 13, 2009, as the killings in Mullivaikkal were reaching their peak, the Australian government announced a new aid package for Sri Lanka. With hundreds of thousands of people displaced or held in internment camps around the island, Australia promised to spend '$15.1 million over four years establishing posts in Sri Lanka and Malaysia, in an effort to strengthen regional co-operation on people-smuggling.' Like this year’s gift of drones, the 2009 package was intended to stop people escaping the island."

"Despite overwhelming evidence that they continue to face persecution, Eelam Tamils seeking asylum in Australia face some of the lowest acceptance rates. The Australian authorities have deported many to danger," Vidhyapathy noted. 

"Tamil refugees also remain imprisoned in Australian-run onshore and offshore detention centers. To justify the refoulement of refugees, the Australian government claims that any abuses against Tamil civilians took place as part of a legitimate struggle against a terrorist organization and are now firmly in the past."

"The Left must reject this cynical cover-up and stand in solidarity with Eelam Tamils, recognizing both the genocide committed against them and their right to self-determination. In Australia, this means fighting the deportation of Eelam Tamils to Sri Lanka, freeing all refugees in onshore and offshore detention, and demanding an end to all military aid to the Sri Lankan state," he concluded. 

Read the full piece here

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